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Printer Security

Eavesdropping On 3D Printers Allows Reverse Engineering of Designs ( 38

Zothecula writes: 3D printers have opened up all kinds of possibilities when it comes to turning digital blueprints into real word objects, but might they also enable new ways to pilfer intellectual property? Amid all that mechanical whirring, these machines emit acoustic signals that give away the motion of the nozzle, new research has found. And by discreetly recording these sounds, scientists say it is possible for sneaky characters to deduce design details and reverse engineer printed objects at a later date.
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Eavesdropping On 3D Printers Allows Reverse Engineering of Designs

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    My Yoda coffee cup will fall into the hands of the Russians!

  • yet again another (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 05, 2016 @04:17AM (#51642547)

    The issue might be real, but the summary is asshandedly disingenious. There is no "Intellectual Property" to be leaked, unless something copyrighted or patented is being printed, with permission.

    In many cases, physical objects of no artistic value (such as screws) cannot be copyrighted.

    If it's patented, then the leaked info does nothing to bypass the patent liability.

    Seems the whole thing is either a paid hit piece attacking 3d printers, or bad sensationalistic journalism trying to drum up a fake controversy.

    In either case, to avoid rewarding such misbehavior, DO NOT READ TFA.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      You also have the case of making a prototype for proof of concept before making a patent.

      But I think that the idea of eavesdropping on the printer is pretty far-fetched, it's easier to pull that information from the computer or network to the printer. Especially considering the need to physical access to the printer room or a neighboring room.

      • From a security perspective, this is very interesting indeed.

        For a few decades now, we've been aware of the security threats against networks. There are procedures and practices that can secure a network or computer, and frankly, we don't include those on tours.

        On the other hand, a 3D printer is new shiny technology, and executives love showing off how up-to-date they are by showing the room full of printers. For an attacker, the attack in TFA would be quite simple. During a tour, put a listening bug near t

      • yeah, it's easier to hack the printer to just send out the exact 'program' being printed to you.

        why bother trying to listen to what is being printed and then figuring out what was printed. that's like a low-rez copy.

        it's the difference between ripping a dvd vs videotaping the tv screen and then re-digitizing the recording

    • Perhaps it'll be used for enforcement. I see unmarked vans equipped with mikes driving around the neighbourhood, and the Disney Police busting down your door if they hear you printing unlicensed Toy Story figurines.
    • Mod parent up.
  • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Saturday March 05, 2016 @04:29AM (#51642575) Homepage Journal

    Back shortly after WWII, we developed the ability to tell what was being typed by the sounds of the typewriter being worked. Today, we can often do the same if we know the typer's 'fist', the patterns they use to type. Beyond that, you have electromagnetic patterns - record the radio signals, process them, and you can get the image on the screen, the characters typed, even for wired instruments.

    In short, this is neat, but really no big deal.

  • If you have access to the room with the 3d printer, I think you can figure out a much easier way to directly steal the files with the secret design. No need for this Rube Goldberg-esque nonsense.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Does adding the word "3d" to the word "printer" change the story at all? Doesn't the "whirring" of ink printers also give a clue as to what they're doing? Even to my non-computerized ears I can hear a clear difference between when it's printing a lot per line and little per line, whether it's printing colour or text, etc.

  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Saturday March 05, 2016 @04:46AM (#51642615)

    Why infiltrate the room the 3D printer is in when you can acquire much more detailed and accurate data using a credit card, a hacksaw, and a laser scanner? You buy the product. You scan the outside with the scanner. You saw whatever cross sections are interesting and scan those too, and you're done.

    But hey, that chiming sound you hear is another graduate student getting his wings. Nice thesis project.

    • When I first read it I thought the credit card was for popping a lock ... but I totally agree.

      Old-school reverse engineering FTW.

    • by AC-x ( 735297 )

      To be fair I think the idea here is that you're eavesdropping on something that isn't available to buy in shops...

    • Speaking of which, I wonder what's the state of the art in cheap destructive scanning right now? I see Scotty [] was a successful experiment, but the resolution is pretty heinously low. Can this sort of thing be done with a laser cutter? Is there some reasonable way to get depth information back from the cutting laser?

  • I dont nead 3B pirnters for my real WORD obtiecjs!
  • by SpaghettiPattern ( 609814 ) on Saturday March 05, 2016 @05:30AM (#51642703)

    I imagine that copying 3D printing files should achieve similar result, admittedly with much less cloak and dagger.

    But I guess I'm an old fashioned day dreamer.

  • Great! Is this a new principle?

    Recording the sound of somebody typing on a keyboard might help cracking the password needed to access the blueprints.

    Recording the sound of a city bus might help to find out where it stopped. Listening around you might help you figure out what people are doing, etc.

    Better yet for all those hypothetical cases;, a video feed!


  • while this may have been a fun exercise in hypotheticals, reconstructing an object from the sound a 3d printer makes is the most indirect, difficult and least precise way of getting the information you want. it's fun to think of but it just has no practical application.

  • nice
  • "but might they also enable new ways to pilfer intellectual property?"

    No, because there is no such thing.

  • by Bruinwar ( 1034968 ) <[bruinwar] [at] []> on Saturday March 05, 2016 @07:04AM (#51642935)

    90% accuracy?! And that is supposed to be useful for something? Seriously, even if someone pilfered the .stl file, the actual 3D model loaded into the 3D printer, all it can tell you is the basic shape. Maybe it can give the an idea of what is being developed.

    That being said, there is a "neat factor" in recording the sound & reproducing the object. But as industrial espionage, this is kina weak. Reverse engineering is a pain in the ass (to do it right) & this would not be of any help IMO.

  • If you've used a 3D printer it's basically a no-brainer to understand that you can retrace the printhead movement from the sounds the printer makes. Some people have even be making music on their printers. []

  • to steal someone's design, that has to be the STUPIDEST way to do it possible.

    It's like a Bruce Schneier Movie Plot Security Thread contest. Only stupider.

  • Just put on some tunes, LOUD... Or to be extra stealthy record some random printer noise and broadcast while you print your ultra top secret doodad.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.